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How to Win

Rewards and Consequences

The people who signed the Declaration of Independence risked everything. If the Americans had lost the war, those who led the insurrection would have lost property and, probably, life.

Risking life and death also emerged as a theme during the holiday “Twilight Zone” marathon. In one of the episodes, a deceased pool player comes back to life just long enough to challenge a living man to a game. The stakes couldn’t be simpler: Life or death.

Whether on July 4, 1776, or in an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” people are playing for high stakes. They must balance the risk and the opportunity.

That’s the way it should be in your gym or on your field. If your players never compete for high stakes in practice, then how they possibly be expected to handle the mental and emotional demands of games? How can they learn to “go for it” in pressure situations if they never practice that way?

Rewards and consequences form a key part of every practice. No one expects these stakes to be life or death, but they should be enough to suggest, as the old “Wide World of Sports” TV show used to say, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

One of my favorite consequences involves taking down and putting away the equipment. No one minds setting it up, because the athletes are just out of school and are excited about practice.

But two hours later, they are tired. That’s why we scrimmage at the end of practice and let the winners celebrate while the losing team puts away the equipment.

Consequences should be quick, definite and not oppressive. They shouldn’t take the fun out of practice; instead they should merely remind the players that winning feels good and losing doesn’t.


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